All Hallows Eve

It’s  All Hallows Eve— better known as Halloween—morning, a Sunday.  I am running on a full tank of energy, no particular plan in mind, other than knowing I want to run long today.   The day is surprisingly warm for this time of year.  The sun shines on my face and in my eyes, dangling low into the morning air.  I run the long route of Marmion Way, turn onto South Street an then onto Eden Road.  I look out at Thacher Island and the Twin Lights, the two slender lighthouses back lit and dark.  The ocean is gentle this morning and round, full waves roll in on the sharp, rich brown rocks.  Each wave is touched by the light and becomes a translucent pale green curl, tricking my mind into thinking of summer and swimming.

As I run along Pebble Beach, I see how low the tide sits on the sand and decide to make this long, easy run the best of the year.  I take the sharp curve up to South Street, then turn again halfway up onto Tregony Bow, a tiny side road that cuts over to Thatcher Road.  I run on the sidewalk for as long a possible.  When the sidewalk disappears, I run on the side of the street, keeping a careful eye for the Sunday drivers headed to church, or maybe out for breakfast.  I gallop along the road side of Long Beach, then along the estuary, looking for the egrets who may still be waiting around for the weather to turn cold before beginning their migration.  I see none, but the sun shines on the tall golden grasses that grow along the side of the road and down into the murky water.  When I reach the fork for Long Beach, I don’t feel ready to turn.  I continue on Thatcher and soon am sprinting along the parking lot to Good Harbor Beach.  I pass a couple of people walking along the side of the road and grin at them.  I keep running.

When I reach the spot where sidewalk resumes, I cross the street and go the rest of the way to Bass Ave.  I jump up and smack the stop sign at the end of the road.  I consider continuing to Bass Rocks and Atlantic Road in Gloucester, since I’m already most of the way there, but cannot stop thinking about running on the beach while the tide is in my favor.  I wrap my hand around the stop sign and fling myself around like a little kid.  I head back along Good Harbor Beach and this time when I reach the road to Long Beach, I head down to the sand.

The beach is almost empty; the tide is so low that I can choose between soft sand, damp sand, wet sand, and chasing the waves.  I do a little of each, breathing in the fresh salty smell of the ocean.  My sneakers sink into the soft sand and I push off into that softness over and over before darting to the edge of the water.  I zigzag around the waves, the joy of the run and the ocean and the sun overtakes me and I am a purely, completely present in this moment.  When the beach ends, I sprint up the little bridge that leads to Cape Hedge Beach.

The hedge of round popple stones looms high and I carefully pick my way up and onto the top.  I can see all of the beach from this point; there is more sand now than there has been all season.  The lifeguard chair is gone, taken in until next summer.  Driftwood logs are scattered across the hedge and the beach.  I can see the little pond behind the beach, and most of Laurel Acres on my left, the vast expanse of blue sky and sea on my right.

I am able to secure my footing easily and monkey my way down to the sand.  The slope of the beach is steep at first, and I run slowly and cautiously.  As the surface levels off, I pick up speed again, watching the waves, listening to the air move along the sand and water.  Gulls circle overhead, laughing their throaty calls to each other.  The stones that have washed up on the sand shine in the bright light, their shadows long in the autumn sun.  As I run, I am acutely aware of each stone, each shadow, each breath I take and hold tightly to this moment, savoring it like the last bite of a rich, dark chocolate, bittersweet and missed almost before it is gone.

I dog-trot up the ramp off of the beach and head home.  I think of other Halloweens, ones when my children were little and excited to dress up in their homemade costumes, ready to go out into the night to trick-or-treat.  I think about how long ago that time was, how one is already out on his own, forgetting about trick-or-treating until he has little ones of his own.  My daughter is really too old to engage in the tradition, although she would have been willing, had she been able to gather a group.  No one is willing this year, so she will stand in our doorway in the costume she made, doling out granola bars to the few children who come around our neighborhood.

I take the rest of the run easy, loping along the route I took out, staggering in the front door hungry and happy.  13 miles, 1:47′.  I look forward to this All Hallows Eve— sated, feeling hallowed myself.

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